We never really stand and look at something for any great length of time. Most of us are too preoccupied to look at things we think we already know. We glance at these things briefly, our minds registering almost immediately that we have seen this before, and we move on. Yet, it is in really looking at those things we think we know, that we discover so much more about ourselves and the world around us.
Children seem to know this intuitively. They can stand for ages absorbed in observing things around them. I always remember my inquisitive middle daughter tugging at my clothes when we were out, trying to get me to stop and look at something she found interesting. “Look with your eyes Mummy!” she would implore when I would glance at what she was excitedly pointing out, comment on it offhandedly and then urge her to keep walking.
We miss out on so much of life when we dismiss what we perceive at first sight as being ordinary. I have found that I am a much more observant person when I have a camera in tow. I stop and look deeper when something catches my eye and I am continually surprised by what I discover and by how much I have learned through the lens.
And when we look at a photograph of an object, we give it so much more of our time than if we looked at the object itself. Somehow a photograph, especially if captured creatively, can show us the object as we have never yet seen it. It can illuminate the ordinary and turn it into a work of art.
This week, I decided to try photographing something ordinary in a way that would cause the viewer to take a second look. I chose coffee cups as my object, found a spot in the house near a window where the sunlight was falling directly onto a white upholstered chair, and photographed them. I used my Nikon D300, no tripod, no additional lighting, no fill-flash, no props.
I mostly photograph living things where you only have that moment to capture a specific image as everything can change in a split second. It was so different photographing still life.
I found I had all the time in the world to observe how the sun's rays gave an inner glow to the cups placed in their path, how the interplay of the light and the shadows created mood, tension and drama as I moved the cups, and ultimately how playing around with position of the cups and the light, enabled the creation of dynamic ‘objets d’art’ with my humble coffee cups.
“Anyone can shoot chaos. But the most perceptive photographers can make compelling pictures out of uninteresting moments.” ~ Alex Tehrani